STM. Short Term Missions. This year I think I have heard those three words more times than I will at any other point in my life. Yet, I am not sick of these three words, as they have truly become the centre of my internship and role at Mission: Europe, but also, because their value has become a lot more evident to me! But where did short term missions begin for this Australian?
My relationship with missions began in the beautiful country of Kenya, although my first time to Kenya was not on missions. I had already ventured to Kenya when I was a young 7 year old; I was actually there for a family holiday. As a young girl, I almost instantaneously fell in love with Africa, with it’s exciting wild life, beautiful landscape and the extraordinary people. Looking back on why I loved the people in Kenya so much as a young 7 year old girl, what I remember and adored was how happy and generous the people of Nakuru, Kenya (the place I visited) were. When I returned to Africa at 14 years of age, I truly understood the weightiness of this joyfulness, and fell in love with the people all over again. My older self journeyed to Kenya for the second time as a member of a creative ministries team that my church in Australia were sending on a STM trip to Kenya. My entire family were a part of the fairly large team, where we served using our artistic gifts in Mbale and Nairobi, Kenya.
The trip was incredibly successful with our creative ministries presentation impacting and informing many lives in schools, orphanages and churches in Kenya. We also grew incredibly close as a team and shared memories with one another that we will probably remember for the rest of our lives. Of all these memories, there are two things that I will always remember from this trip that have shaped aspects of my life, and continue to do so even today.
We had come to Kenya to share our knowledge of worship and stories of God to the people of Kenya. Despite this, I personally felt that we learned more from the Kenyan’s about worship and God than we could of ever of taught them. The spirit of worship in the Kenyan churches I experienced, is a spirit that cannot be taught because it only comes from tremendous faith. You see, for some reason, worship from what I have seen, is different in every country and furthermore varies within that country among its different churches. The worship style I was used to praising Jesus to was a lot of Hillsong, Hillsong United and other Western Christian bands. People would often turn up to church half way through the worship, and all around the place would be crying, singing, with some people speaking tongues, with their arms raised, eyes closed and head looking to the above, with occasional jumping.
Now, as I progressed to youth church the music was much louder and jumping was a weekly ritual, with flashing lights and smoke machines. However, despite how conservative this seemed compared to the Kenyan’s, moving from Australia to England leads me to give the Aussies some credit! A bodily sway is even a little unusual in my English church, with the concept of jumping definitely being foreign at our adult service and a little bit of a push at our youth service. Still, my family and I’s experience of an African-American church we visited on a trip to New York a few years later, definitely puts the Aussies to shame.
My family and I were admittedly afraid to clap, in fear of clapping out of time and becoming even more noticeably white in this incredible church, where the moves and enthusiasm of worship was incredible to watch. Nevertheless, nothing compares to the Congo lines, screaming, shouting, holding of chairs and hip movements of the worship I observed in Kenya! These Kenyan people were worshiping God with absolutely everything they had! They were not afraid of looking foolish, they did not care who saw, all they wanted to do was praise Jesus, with every fiber in their body and ounce of energy they possessed! I am pretty sure that when David danced before the Lord with all his might, it would of looked a little something like those Kenyans.
The worship of those Kenyan’s constantly challenges and reminds me that I should not care who is looking, or how crazy or silly I may look. No matter where I am or what the circumstance, I should always praise God with everything that I have. The Kenyan’s taught me that there is always joy in praising God, not just when life is good, but in times of great pressure and trial.
Still, the first notion of my first STM trip that has changed my life, links well to the second aspect of Kenya that I will always remember. I will never forget the amazing faith of the people of Kenya and their giving nature even when they had nothing left to give. I have written it before in a blog, that the giving heart of the poor will forever change your heart. You see, you would think that it would be easy to be generous when you have lots to give. Yet, us Westerners, who are all rich comparably to the rest of the planet, seem to struggle with generosity. We become consumed in our own worlds causing us to lose sight of God and our social conscience.
The reason I can remember this revelation is because I so clearly remember the moment that I realized it, and everything just seemed to fall down on top of me. I cried my eyes out, and I was completely ashamed of my attitude and the way I was for the first time in my life. I told my mother I couldn’t believe how selfish I was. I couldn’t believe how ungrateful I was for all the blessings I had in my life. The people of Kenya give what they do not have to give because they fully have faith that God will provide for them. When one has very little, it is incredibly easy to see God when your vision is not blocked by all the consumerist stuff we surround ourselves and numb our spirits with. These Kenyan’s showed me what true faith is, which is to trust God, even when you don’t know how you are going to provide your family with their next meal. They showed me what real giving is, which is giving everything you have even when you have nothing left to give.
True generosity is giving what you can’t, giving what hurts you. These realizations I had of God and life are ones that I would of never of had or of been able to fully believe and experience if I hadn’t gone on that STM trip to Kenya. I would never feel so strongly and would not of been as impacted by it if I hadn’t experienced it first hand. This is why I am writing this blog!
You see, you, my readers, may have read the first paragraph of my blog and even now do not realize that I am directly addressing you because you are scrolling through the rest of your Facebook feed. Or maybe you have made it through to the end of this blog and you have even been challenged or moved by what I wrote. I definitely hope that this is the case and I do not deny the power of words. Still, I also know that no blog, report or article could compare or touch my life as much as when I went to Kenya. I know that I would never fully believe what I wrote if I hadn’t gone on that STM trip myself!
However, great revelations are not the only thing you will gain from an STM trip. If my parents hadn’t had a heart for missions, and had not shared this heart with my brother and I, we would not realize how blessed we are. We would not of appreciated just how extraordinary our lives were and how fortunate we really are. If you decide to go on an STM trip, I guarantee that some aspect of yourself will change. If you go on an STM trip, you will not only experience a different way of life but will have an opportunity to serve and help those in need.
If you go on a STM trip, you probably will observe devastation, and the burden of poverty, but I guarantee you won’t regret it. So let’s stop saying if, but instead start saying when. It is my own personal opinion that every single person on this planet should go on a short term missions trip, but I know that if you are a Christian reading this that you are called and have a responsibility to experience and acknowledge those who live in poverty. So why not go on mission, and why not ho build God’s kingdom in Europe?! Then, why not do this with an organization where STM is at the centre of its heart? Here at Mission: Europe, it is our passion to see people’s lives changed and empowered by the love of our Father. STM trips is one of the key ways we do this, so we invite you to join us.